I use monitors, and I found that they were better then most towers in same price range that I heard. I have Dynaudio X16s and X22 Center used in a room that is about the same size as your buddies. Cost was about $2450 with stands.
The Monitor Audio RX8 and RX Center was very good for a tower setup.
Salk should have a setup of Monitors and a Center that would fit the budget and be pretty good too. I dont think they have center channels on their website, but you can get them to quote and make you one. I havent heard these, but their reputation is very good.
for a full setup of 5.1 speakers
for the price, a great set of monitors will be better then most towers you will find in that price range. My suggestions would be these
Monitor Audio RX1, RX Center, BXFX or RX1 for surrounds, available at www.audioadvisor.com
Focal Chorus 706V, CC700V, and SR700V or 705V for surrounds, available at www.musicdirect.com
Dynaudio DM2/6 for fronts and surrounds and DM Center, you will have to find a local dealer.
PSB B6 and C5 setup or Paradigm Center 3 and Monitor 3 would be good setups too. You will need to find a local Paradigm dealer, PSB can be bought on www.audioadvisor.com
or at saturday audio exchange online website, i think its www.saturdayaudio.com
For a subwoofer, I would suggest that you look at the Hsu VTF2 MK4 or the SVS NSD-PB12.